Her husband was a good friend of mine. I respected him, and would never betray him. Never. Or so I told myself often enough, implored myself often enough. To no avail. For has the man, or woman, seen the light of day who can withstand desire right out of the original wrapping? More
Sussex nights in early July do not stay dark for long, and by four o’clock gray creeps up on you from under bushes and from behind walls and soon you can easily make out shapes and features again. Half an hour later, it’s as good as day.
We had stayed up talking right on through the night against a shared, and much enjoyed backdrop of Joni Mitchell, Stealers Wheel, Ralph McTell, and even some George Frideric Handel, sustained by deeply held and shared beliefs. It was timeless talk. And by timeless I mean, first it was ten o’clock in the evening, then it was four in the morning. Just like that.
She was young and had a wonderful English accent. She had those kinds of eyes that sparkled a bit when she looked at you, green with gold-flecked irises. You’ve seen them perhaps? Juice Newton comes to mind. Magical eyes. Uncommon eyes—I have since learned. Unforgettable eyes—I learned that summer.
She had wonderful breasts, full from recent motherhood, though still aloft with youth. Her skin was just a shade off white toward amber, and smooth, as if someone had dipped her in creamy milk just from the farmer. Beautiful hands, milky too. And strong. And when she wrote—which I had seen her do often, for we shared an office—she curled her cursive letters back over themselves in a way that made it look like she was on some marathon reverse traveling ovals exercise. Almost the way some left-handed writers do, but she was right-handed. And she could do this, could write like this, and legibly, even beautifully, without looking at the page—while looking at me, for example—her pen still trailing perfect letters into perfect words into perfectly straight lines of them.
An amazing skill. Amazing hands. A conjurer’s hands. Milky, too—or did I already say that?
She had full, brown hair that fell softly onto her shoulders, especially when she combed it all back from her forehead with one swift, left-hand movement, her pen hardly pausing.
She was shorter than I, a hand or so, but in a strange way she felt just as tall; you know what I mean, when you look at the physical person you see one height, when you look at the real person you see another, taller or shorter as the case may be.
She had a young son.
And she was married.
This didn’t bother me though, nor even concern me; no, not in the least, for I harbored none of those particular intentions, her breasts, her hair, her irises, and her milky skin notwithstanding.
We had worked late that night and it was time to leave, but she lingered, first putting things away, then straightening chair and desk and blotter, then again, then she came to some sort of decision and instead of leaving pulled her chair out from behind her desk and around to face me across my desk, and without as much as a hint of preamble turned personal: Why wasn’t I married? she wanted to know, elbows on my desk and chin resting on her partly fisted hands.
I don’t recall what I answered her—never found the right one, too busy with my writing, didn’t want to get hurt again, probably one of those—but I do remember that before long I found myself opening up the way we do to a sympathetic and interested ear. And I found her opening up, too, as one thought after another found words that fit and traveled across the silence between us.
I had been engaged once, no twice, I told her. Hadn’t worked out either time, which I luckily had realized before it was too late. Twice. What wasn’t right? she wanted to know. Hard to tell, I said at first, just felt wrong, you know, just didn’t feel right.
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